I saw the signs after I got on the ramp: “Wrong way!”
I was on the Off ramp instead of the On ramp!
Now what? I couldn’t turn around: the ramp was narrow, and walled. I couldn’t back up into the traffic. I proceeded carefully down the narrow lane (no cars coming yet!) and hoped for space and opportunity. And did I ever pray! Not with many words (“Oh, God, help me!”) but with much intensity!
Now ahead I saw room for a two-point turn. I also saw oncoming traffic. I had too little time to make the turn in front of it. The best I could do was pull as far off to the right as possible to let all oncoming drivers squeeze by, and hope a break in traffic would soon allow me time to turn.
The lead oncoming driver saw my predicament (stupidity?—error!) and slowed to a stop. Filled with gratitude to God and that driver, I made my frantic about-face and was quickly out of there, headed in the right direction.
Do you know what I did down there, while those oncoming drivers waited? I repented! Repentance is a complete turn-around, to head henceforth in the correct direction.
We all foul up unintentionally. I certainly didn’t purpose to head the wrong way into a busy superhighway. With confusing road markings and poor visibility* and having to turn left across traffic, I was earnestly trying to find the onramp slot. And when I saw my error, yes, I was horrified, embarrassed, mortified, but I got turned around as quickly as possible.
Then there was grace: I could turn because the oncoming driver gave me opportunity—not to continue error, but to make correction. He didn’t pull to his far right and wave me on in my wrong course, to a fatal crash on the six-lane!
To assume I could continue in the direction I was headed with no dire consequences would have been madness. Yet so many people—including “Christians” —think they can just continue on their wrong course, disaster-free. And too many bystanders in today’s church act like that’s okay.
If we’re in error, we need to repent. If we’re one of those headed in the right direction, we need to exhibit grace toward the wrong-way traveler. Grace allows, even helps make, a way for the erring one to get turned around. Grace neither rants against and ridicules his stupidity while allowing no room to turn, nor does it encourage or assent to her continuing the error. Grace slows to stop if need be, and allows an about-face.
If I’d been belligerent or stupid enough to proceed onward after my chance to turn, oncoming drivers then should have blown horns, waved and gestured, even yelled at me, then undoubtedly called the police! But grace and repentance righted the wrong—and so may it be in our churches, homes, and other relationships: Repentance and Grace.
* poor visibility turns out to have been poor vision, corneal dystrophy and early cataracts in both eyes. For more on this, go here.